Friday, May 01, 2009

On St Joseph's Day, "Blessed Tim" Meets the Workers

To commemorate this feast of St Joseph the Worker, earlier today the archbishop of New York journeyed to the Far West Side (video) to bless the tunnel-boring machines that, later this month, will begin creating the city's newest subway line and, with 'em, the "sandhogs" about to undertake the dangerous job:
They call it the man cage. A steel mesh box painted a tired yellow, it delivers about a dozen men at a time into the bowels of Manhattan to tunnel through bedrock.

On Friday morning, the crane that runs the cage was on overdrive, hoisting workers out of the 130-foot deep burrow to meet a gregarious, perpetually grinning man of the cloth who was there to shake hands, slap backs and give his blessing to the work — Timothy M. Dolan, the new Roman Catholic archbishop of New York.

Archbishop Dolan, as part of his orientation as the new leader of the archdiocese, spent about an hour at the noisy site at 25th Street and 11th Avenue, among the workers commonly known as sandhogs. They were preparing to drill a tunnel extending the No. 7 subway line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, a $2.1 billion project expected to be finished in 2013.

A project supervisor had asked for the archbishop to come, said Richard T. Fizsimmons, business manager of the sandhogs’ union, Local 147 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Wearing a hardhat over his traditional purple zucchetto, Archbishop Dolan wound slowly through the crowd of muddy workers, posing for photos, offering friendly words of encouragement and trading blessings, occasionally tracing a cross on workers’ protective hats.

Robert Strohschein, an electrician, sidled up and offered his own blessing for a religious leader whose new-found visibility comes with a different set of hazards. “He prays for everybody. So who prays for him?” Mr. Strohschein said afterward. “He doesn’t have an easy task here in New York. This city will eat you up.”...

After the greetings, Dolan gave a brief blessing at the precipice. Then he shook more hands. The blessing coincided with the church’s Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

Here is the text of the blessing, as transcribed by the archdiocese:
Let us pray: Oh God, you are never far off from those who serve you; and with fatherly protection you always guide those who trust in you.

Bless this tunnel, those who are constructing it, and those who will use it.

For those working here on this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, may those who labor here know that their labors may always be united and offered in the service of the Lord. For those will use this train, may the grace of God be the guide that goes before them and the companion to sustain them on their way. By your favor, protect them from adversity, so that they may arrive safely at their destination and accomplish what they set out to do.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
* * *
The initial all-out blitz might've quieted down... but Sixteen Days in, the Big Apple's still getting lots of chances to get to know the new arrival -- Tim Dolan's first major interview with local TV (streamable in 1, 2, 3, 4 parts) aired on WCBS early Sunday; one op said he'd "never seen so many smiling priests in my life" after the first of the clergy gatherings, and in the archbishop's first official visit (video) to one of the 2.5 million-member (and 200-mile-long) archdiocese's 19 vicariates, a Vespers crowd that spilled out the doors of a far Upstate church roared, both with cheers... and laughter:
Dolan told about his most recent confession, at a New York City church.

The priest who heard Dolan's confession had no idea who the person confessing was.

And after Dolan confessed his sins, the priest sought to pass along a little wisdom to him — from a very familiar source.

"Let me tell you something our new archbishop said," the priest said to Dolan. "Did you listen to the new archbishop's [installation] homily?"

The congregation was almost on the floor with laughter at that point. Then Dolan delivered the payoff.

"I was afraid, for my penance, he was going to say to listen to it again," Dolan said.
Of course, you could do far worse than to hear it again. And the other one, to boot.

PHOTOS: Ruby Washington/The New York Times